Film Brief: Spotlight

Spotlight - poster

The Rotten Tomatoes consensus:

Spotlight gracefully handles the lurid details of its fact-based story while resisting the temptation to lionize its heroes, resulting in a drama that honors the audience as well as its real-life subjects.

Film critics are journalists, and as such tend to be biased toward stories about journalists.  I concur with the Tomatoes consensus, but I wasn’t enthralled to the extent many critics were — this is not the best film of the year by a long shot.  Spotlight is very good, but it won’t pass the five-year’s test.  Or put it another way: recommended, definitely — but in no way must-see.  8/10

Spotlight - text block

Genre Essentials: Halloween

Halloween poster

Halloween (1978) is a genre essential, which is to say it’s not generally essential, i.e. a must-see for all who love movies, but if you’re into horror flicks or creepfests you really should get around to seeing it.  Better genre essentials in the ring include Paranormal Activity, Saw, The Blair Witch Project, The Shining, and The Ring.

Not that Halloween is bad.  The film features a terrific flow and a lush cinematic look, the earlier parts of the film rich in daylight sidewalk scenes — this is the part of the movie I loved.  But the plot has too many holes and continuity problems, and by comparison to more recent horror films, the payoff disappoints.  Sure people are being hacked and slashed frequently enough once the lights go down, but it’s just not that scary.

But it’s not boring   In its own modest way, it is creepy, compelling and dramatic.  But I wouldn’t classify it as a “Riveting Rental,” nor does it hit the fright factor like The Shining or The Ring — but then so few films do.  Besides being a good movie, it stands as the influential leader of the slasher sub-genre, and a horror classic — good reasons to give it a go.  Other items of note: the iconic soundtrack, and Jamie Lee Curtis’ first appearance in film.  For more, look at the extensive Wikipedia entry.  6/10

Availability: iTunes / Apple TV rental.

Film Brief: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak - poster

I figured somewhere on Rotten Tomatoes that I’d find a capsule I could swallow, but no such luck.

So, here’s mine: a terrific and unexpected first half, a let-down in the second half, and lots of great thematic elements and rich gothic atmosphere that’s never fully exploited.  Crimson Peak deserved a story with ever-more eventful intrigue, but it falls way short — as if the writers became further and further bogged down in their own thick red mire.  Still, there’s some enjoyment to be had, so a marginal recommendation.  6/10

A Room to Grow In

Room 2015 - poster

Room is a powerful indie about the strength of the human spirit.  And it’s darn good.  I knock it down a peg for a tinge of actoryness / formula in the second half, and the fact that the second half feels just a bit draggy compared to the exceptional tension built up in the first half.  The most dramatic moment in a movie should not be at the half-way point.

But I forgive it not following a conventional plot curve, because we’re talking about real life (“Plucked from the headlines!”, as it were).  Kenneth Turan:

“Room” is several things by turn: creepy, frightening, exhilarating and then frightening and exhilarating all over again

Despite its very limited shortcomings, Room is outstanding.  Another terrific realization by A24 Films.  8/10

Comparison Notes: Not Recommended: Life is Beautiful (could learn a lesson from Room); Recommended: Captain Phillips, Blindness, Boyhood

Film Brief: The Martian

The Martian - poster small“Bring Him Home” the poster pleads.  If there were any inkling of doubt at all, there might be some actual drama.  But there’s not, and the whole thing is an utter bore.  Or put another way…

Those who appreciate good science, good fiction, or good science fiction won’t find much to like in The Martian.  On the other had, the enormous popularity of the picture demonstrates how subjective “good” is.  But then, a lot of people thought George Bush was a good president.  For me, what a yawner.  And I mean literally.  It’s remarkable how each film Ridley Scott produces sinks below his prior effort.  2/10

Comparison Notes (each recommended, and stratospheres better than The Martian): Gravity, Moon

PS  This guy’s a botanist, but he didn’t bring any seeds?  Gimme a break!